C-Stores and Municipal Boards: Communication Pays Off
by Attorney Barry Crimmins
Local government is often characterized as “the purest form of democracy.”
Each municipality has its own elected or appointed officials who oversee the governing of their respective communities. These gatekeepers are tasked with charting and shaping the growth of their towns and, as such, are the people who approve (or do not approve) requests for new constructions or expansions.
For developers, this “purest form of democracy” can sometimes seem very time-consuming and frustrating. But knowing how to navigate through this municipal process can save time and money.
Let’s suppose that you, as the developer of a new convenience store location, are planning to build a new location in a nearby community. While there’s agreement among those involved on the convenience store side, the local officials of that community may not be as immediately on board.
Each community differs somewhat in its zoning regulations. When planning a new project, become familiar with who the key players and decision-makers are, as well as which boards or departments you will need to appear before, and the community’s by-laws. One quick way to learn this is through the community website, which usually includes a list of departments and elected/appointed officials.
When the formal application process gets under way, the hearings will be before a number of boards. However, before you get to the formal hearing process, it may be advantageous to seek a preliminary meeting with the boards and/or department heads.
In this somewhat less formal setting, you can introduce yourself and your plan and seek the input from board members as to what you might do to make the project more appealing to the town. Become familiar with what they expect, understanding that this may not be the same as what is required.